Friday, November 11, 2016

They fought to give us a gift of a free country.. let's not mess that up

Veterans' Day represents all of our military who sacrificed their time and potentially lives to represent our country. My grandfathers worked to free concentration camp victims in world war II. My father worked communication at a time when we were defending democracy in SE Asia. My brother helped defend a small country in the Persian Gulf from an aggressive neighbor.

We did all of these things because we believe that the right to have free elections, and exist in a country where all views  (religious and personal) are taken into account is valuable.

Everyday in my work as an educator I try to discern what people are thinking, how much they know, where they got their resources. I pay attention to whether they are treating others with respect, I try to teach them critical skills like seeing issues from several points of view, collaborating and compromising to achieve goals.

I am a history teacher at heart, so I worry that people see the whole picture and understand how the government works, how different leaders affected history, how certain movements over time worked to achieve rights for women, all races religion and sexual preferences.

I am perplexed and upset every day by what I see happening in our country.

I have many friends of all kinds. I don't limit myself to only listening to people who agree with me.

I know educated intelligent adults who spent the last few weeks spewing hate and name calling. With all of the de-friending on social media, I worry people are retreating to their little boxes of like-minded individuals.

So if you are still reading this realize :

Presidents rarely keep their campaign promises : I know many of you are afraid that our Latino LGBTQ and women friends will be affected by walls, new laws, and supreme court reversals that will threaten our families and ways of life.

There are many more steps that have to happen before that is a threat.

 Is it great that the same party now controls possibly all three branches of government... no, this is not ideal. But in just two years there is a midterm election that can change that.

So many of you think that by electing  Donald Trump our country gave the green light to disrespect of disabled people, women, homosexuals, and immigrants.

NO . Each us has the power and responsibility every day to respect everyone around us.

We have a fair and free election system. My friends that voted for Donald Trump did so overwhelmingly because they believe that our country needed to shakeup Status Quo economically. Much remains to be seen about policies and practices that will or won't make changes.

I am upset that protests put my 20 year old daughter in danger in California this week. My initial reaction was to sarcastically "thank" DJT. My logic was : his hateful comments, caused a visceral response creating a vacuum of common sense and therefore a forum for protests and hate. Yes, that is all very ugly.

But I am thinking more about individual responsibility now to be true to each of our own values while working together in government systems. I am putting in perspective times in history where groups worked peacefully and productively to make sure that their values and messages got across .
( MLK comes to mind.)

I am listening to the plans for the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency and I  am not hearing the threats to civil liberties some of my friends are very concerned about.

I see very few people being able to stand the optimistic middle ground that I am taking right now. I have felt accused by both sides of being a horrible person. My liberal friends are being accused of being "crybabies" as they express their concerns about the outcome, and my conservative friends have been labeled the devil incarnate for supporting Trumps views.

Please join me here in the middle where we try to respect the government system our forefathers set up knowing that we have a lot of different views in our country to manage . And try to respect each other every day. The whole " We " and " Them" thing is getting in the way here..... on many many different levels.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Not my Circus, not my Monkeys .. but SO MUCH LEARNED !

Tonight I had a unique experience to witness an intimate learning experience as a semi-outsider. I went to support my friend's daughter in her role as Student Liaison to her BOE in rural upstate NY. Her predominantly white school district voted at a June 7, 2016 BOE meeting to replace their "Indian" mascot with  an "Eagle."  To the credit of their teachers and the passion of the students, a human rights club and student council banded together to re-initiate the movement to replace the mascot due to the discriminatory nature of stereotyping Native Americans as cartoon-like aggressive characters.

But alas, despite the fact that the students thoroughly researched their case, and they knew the history of the movement (15 years prior a similar decision by the BOE was overturned after pushback and violence from the community), I think they underestimated the still existing strong emotions regarding  the matter. The meeting tonight was designed for everyone who wanted to speak about the matter to have 3:00 minutes. Over 30 people were signed up to speak.

The learning the students demonstrated so eloquently tonight in quality research from legitimate sources, passionate persuasive writing , and articulate speaking was quite impressive. They recognized and honored human rights and cultural sensitivity. They had discussions, a call to action, a survey, a forum for dissenting views all as part of their process to make their case. And the BOE agreed, especially given their legal obligation to have non discriminatory practices.

Stating a strong passionate opinion to like-minded individuals is easy. Ask anyone who has de-friended all the political opinions on the other side of the Facebook isle. Many of these students will go on to strong liberal arts schools and have educational experiences that are far reaching in their creativity for problem solving and critical thinking. These will be wonderful learning experiences.

But they got one of the best ones they could tonight. The students gracefully and politely listened as adults that have come from 5 generations in that town gave their opinions about the "indian " mascot. It represented honor to them, integrity to who they were. Most genuinely did not believe they were being racist by invoking the mascot, but they were in fact remembering and honoring Native Americans. (Who they believed did not mind the name "Indians"). They spoke of relatives who had passed away who were "Indians" (athletes from this particular town, bonded by tradition)  and how this move dishonors them. And the story was told of  the 80s football state championship where the 18-0 snowy half time deficit was overcome by a rally that started with an Indian chant (I admit I cringed at that one) . I believe that listening to and tolerating views you do not share, is one of the best human skills in the 21st century.

Everything was going along predictably uncomfortably for everyone, until it took a sharp turn few were expecting. An older  Native American woman got up to explain that her father had been forced to leave his home and go to a military school, and was disgraced by his American classmates. That her father taught her to not give up on who she was . But the cultural references to Native Americans were hers to make, not the white rural people who may have happened to live in an area once long ago populated by Native Americans ( which by the way, would be every where in America) . This woman was proud of the BOE that they were giving their students a symbol (Eagle) to be proud of and that it could represent joy and power and inclusiveness to the whole community without possibly alienating anyone.  She was hard to argue with !

The "Save the Indians " crew,  I will call them, changed the tune to "change is ok" , but the process was wrong, it should be a referendum of the whole town (like 15 years ago) , resignations were called for, accusations of political posturing flew around,  but the very best idea was called for by some sensible people who were there to support the students and the BOE. They said that it was apparent that the entire community would benefit from cultural sensitivity and tolerance training. (couldn't we all ?!) Just maybe plan the vote for after the training !

I think about my daughter and her passionate writing about gun control laws and the political climate today where everyone has so much to say but doesn't appear to be hearing one another. I think about the many people who let tradition, and agreement with their elders as a bonding experience, get in the way of accepting new and progressive ideas that are inclusive of all humans. But I've seen change in my lifetime and I hope our children get to see much more.

Maybe the circus and the monkeys do belong to all of us jointly ?